Let’s get a few things clear at the outset. There was no Ranjit Katyal or Amrita, we are also not sure if there was any menacing Iraqi General called Bin Zayd. The movie does take creative liberties in reimagining the events of 1990 in far off Kuwait. But does that take the sheen out of the largest civil evacuations completed successfully in human history? No sir! This is a story every Indian should know. We all remember Kargil, the events of 26/11 and others, mostly because they took place in the day and age of breaking news. Most of us also know about the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait and the repercussions that Kuwait in particular and the world in general had to face. But Airlift is a story of courage shown by few Indians in a hostile land when the odds were stacked against them. And we should know this story.
Raja Krishna Menon delivers a crisp and thrill-a-minute ride camouflaged as a mainstream Bollywood movie typical of any flick coming from the Khans. But when you remember that these events actually took place, you get goosebumps. Also, this is an Akshay movie. He has carved a niche in Bollywood with hard hitting roles, in scripts which are both mainstream and strewn with reality. Here, he suitably underplays the role of an accidental hero, junking showy heroism to portray the character-graph development from a hard-nosed businessman to a reluctant leader and eventually embodying the role of a messiah for nearly two lakh Indians caught amidst a mass crisis. Apart from Katyal, there were other important cogs to this wheel. Ibrahim, played by Purab Kohli is endearing yet melancholy, Inaamulhaq as the menacing Iraqi General with a droll Hindi accent creates enough tension and George, played with equal measures irritability and humour by Prakash Belawadi is well enacted and also is key to the transformation of Amrita (Nimrat Kaur) from a pompous wealthy wife to a partner to her goodwill minded husband. Other notable characters include committed bureaucrat Kohli ( Kumud Mishra) who facilitates the rescue operation and Kurien, Katyal’s helping hand in Kuwait.
The cinematography is outstanding. The subtle yellow hue used throughout, adds the much-needed grittiness to the subject-line of the story by painting the realism of the destruction that war brings. We see two different pictures in the matter of minutes. One, on 1st August, 1990 where the city is alive with merriment and opportunities for expats like Katyal, while the other, on 2nd August is a bloodied city ravaged by Saddam’s troupes. There is a scene where Katyal drives through the city in despair and watches the gun flailing Iraqi soldiers killing civilians. It immediately jolts the audience and prepares them for the intense events yet to unfold.
The director uses the patriotism theme a tad more than required, obviously playing to the audience to invoke applause and emotions. But he never overdoes them. A normal tendency of Indian directors when they have a superstar at their disposal is to show unrealistic heroism. Menon steers clear of such bravado by making Katyal human. Akshay has to plead, get hit and use his wits to get out of situations most of the time.
The music is limited and merges into the story, except for may be the party song at the start. Background score is intense which goes well with the somber theme. Only issue we had was that the beautiful song “Soch Na Sake” has been credited entirely to Amaal Malik and the original composer of the punjabi version, Hardy Sandhu, is not mentioned.
Credit to the producers too, for the simple reason that they gave Menon the wherewithal to bring this story of patriotism and bravery to the big screen. Such a story of mass evacuation needs a huge budget and multiple locations. And Menon used everything at his disposal to make the story feel real and connect well with the audience.
It took 488 Air India and Indian Airlines flights more than 59 days to get 1,70,000 Indians home. As Katyal says in one of the scenes “chot lagti hain to aadmi maa maa hi chillaata hain sabse pehle”, this story is of Indians who brought back their brethren to their homeland. During times of unrest and internal issues plaguing the country, we need such a movie to get the pulses flowing, even if for a two hour duration. And we should thank Akshay Kumar, for bringing such stories to the fore. He is one superstar who we can bank on.
gobblpoint: Watch it on Republic Day to get the full patriotic feel.
Disclaimer: The image used in this blog is the sole property of the makers of this film and is not owned by us in any form whatsoever.